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Think learning to drive in the UK is hard? Try learning in Colombia…

RED Driving School looks at the driving test on an international scale

Anybody out there who thinks learning to drive in the UK is difficult can take solace in the fact that they don’t live in Colombia, or a number of other countries across the world in fact. RED Driving School, the second largest driving school in the UK, has looked at a cross section of countries across the globe, to compare the ‘learning to drive’ process.

RED has looked at the three highest populated countries on each continent to get some insight into the level of difficulty, or in some cases simplicity, of obtaining a licence.

Research suggests that, of the 18 countries investigated, 11 of those have more strict and complicated processes in place than the UK, with only five countries adopting an easier process and two on even keel with the UK.

Ian McIntosh, chief executive at RED Driving School explained: “Of all the countries we looked at, it seems that Colombia has the most complex and lengthy process for learning to drive. You can start a year earlier than the UK at 16, but you must enrol in the Gradual Rearing of Adult Drivers, or GRAD, programme before being granted a full driving licence.”

“In Colombia, anyone interested in learning to drive must first complete an exam which determines the learner’s knowledge of traffic laws, road signs and driving safety rules. On completion of the test, you are issued with a learner’s permit. Once you have this, you can begin your driving lessons. After 40 hours of training, you may take a road skills test to upgrade your licence to a provisional.

“Once you are 17, or have held the provisional licence for 6 months, whichever comes first, you can apply for a full licence with conditions. You cannot apply for a full driving licence until you are 21 years of age which requires a further road skills test which looks at the driver’s ability to operate a vehicle, use turn signals, parallel park and a range of other skills. Have I lost you yet? If we thought the UK driving test was difficult, we really need to look at what it is like abroad before we complain!”

The research also revealed that a key trend among a lot of the countries is the condition that learner drivers must spend a certain number of hours or years learning before they can take a test for a full licence.

For instance, in Canada, Colombia, Germany, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea it can take up to five years and multiple tests before you can apply for a full licence. In the US and Australia, there is a specific number of hours you must log with your instructor, with a small proportion explicitly dedicated to driving at night.

McIntosh continued: “The recent statistics released by the Department of Transport indicate a disappointing increase in the rate of road deaths for 2011, in particular those aged between 17 and 24. The research results highlighted above suggest that the UK driving test is not as challenging as in other countries and we are fully supportive of making the UK testing process a more rigorous one. By toughening the test procedure, drivers will develop more skills that will benefit them in their driving experience, as well as making the UK roads a safer place. We would hope that this would help reduce the number of road deaths in the UK.”

Looking at other interesting findings from the research, McIntosh said: “We also came across a few interesting facts about the process in other countries. For example, in Mexico, you don’t need to take a driving test if you are 18 or over, in Turkey you only have to drive 400 yards for your test and, in India, the practical test is taken around a track. The research really does enlighten you about the varying driving test standard on a global scale and the skills needed to become a qualified driver can really differ massively. In China, you don’t even need to take a practical driving test!”